Convenience and Community during Corornavirus

If there’s one good thing to come from the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s a greater sense of community. From the weekly doorstep claps for carers, to people volunteering to help neighbours that they rarely spoke to before, it’s clear that life has changed. How we shop has changed too, even throughout the pandemic.

In the early weeks of the outbreak, shops across the UK struggled to meet demand that resulted from panic buying, with empty shelves in supermarkets a common sight. According to Kantar, March was the biggest month for grocery sales ever recorded, with sales amounting to £10.8 billion.  Between Monday 16th and Thursday 19th March, 88% of households visited a grocer, adding up to an extra 42 million shopping trips in only four days.

Throughout April, Tesco has noticed that the number of transactions has halved, but the size of the average basket has doubled, suggesting that we’re moving back towards a single ‘big’ weekly shop. Demand for online delivery and click and collect slots NI remains extremely high, and with social distancing rules, popping to the supermarket is no longer quick or convenient.

Convenience is king

Enter stage left, the convenience store. Offering many of the same items as supermarkets but with the benefit of short (or no) queues and often closer to home, corner shops also experienced less disruption to their supply chain and have a faster response to changes in demand to ensure items remain in stock.

Footfall in convenience stores increased by 25.6% YOY (Retail Data) in the week commencing 30th March, and it has remained high throughout April. Basket values have also increased, in line with supermarket spending.

Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight, Fraser McKevitt commented: ““Convenience stores increased sales by 39% in the latest four weeks [April], now accounting for 16.3% of the market compared to 12.4% a year ago.” Across Northern Ireland, convenience stores were also quick to adapt to changing circumstances, with many now offering delivery services with better availability and quicker turnaround than the supermarkets.

The banana bread-wagon

With many people at home trying to make the best of a bad situation, the demand for cooking ingredients grew. From home baking to creating fakeaways, more people are cooking from scratch, with 50% of Irish households buying supplies in April (Kantar Ireland). Flour shortages remain an issue across the UK, with mills unprepared for the increased demand of small 1.5kg bags. Convenience retailers across the UK have been able to provide for customers who might normally have visited a large store, with sales on plain and self-raising flour up by 829% and 830% respectively. Additionally some convenience stores have been able to obtain large bags of flour to sell by weight to customers refilling their own containers.

In Northern Ireland, we jumped on the banana bread-wagon too, with a clear jump in the popularity of the search on google for the region post-lockdown. Who knew that it would be the definitive baked good of Lockdown 2020, though scones are also high on the agenda in NI too.

Lockdown hasn’t dampened sales of spirits

David Berry, Kantar’s Commercial Director for Ireland said: “There are signs that people are trying not to let the lockdown dampen their spirits.  While beer gardens and wine bars remain off limits, people have been turning to the grocers for their favourite tipples and boosted sales of alcohol by 70%, an additional €47 million.  Wine sales increased by 50% year on year, while beer, lager and cider sales benefited from the warmer weather and were double the levels in the same four weeks in 2019.